Safari is a living experience; we each take away from it something a little different. For some, the grandeur of its large mammals shocks and awes, for others the mighty vastness of a balanced wilderness strikes at the soul. Small connections can blow up into life-changing events and relations to the lives of wild animals can bring about a humbling realisation.

Often the recognised character and individuality of animals hits home the strongest, and is felt most commonly with leopards. I believe this is the case as we observe these stunning animals fairly regularly and quite often know their history as far back as birth. Their solitary nature makes them more clearly identifiable as we witness their behaviour changes and reactions to different conditions, as well as see them face challenges. One leopard in particular, captured my intrigue early on in my time here at Londolozi and I still reminisce his existence and dominance, today.

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My first sighting of this magnificent male leopard; the Gowrie male, ironically on April Fool’s Day 2015. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Gowrie 2:2 Male
2005 - 2015

The Gowrie male first appeared in the Sabi Sands around 2011. Judging by his size, he is estimated to have been born around 2005/6.

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Gowrie 2:2 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
6 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

Prior to working at Londolozi I frequented the daily blog on more than a daily basis. It amazed, fascinated and excited me beyond any other web read, and further drove my desire to follow a passion and work in this environment. During this time I saw many beautiful photographs and interesting write ups about this male leopard known as the Gowrie male. Although there were more often posts about the famous Camp Pan and Marthly males at that time, something stood strong with the less prominent, under-toned and low key Gowrie male. Perhaps it was his quieter nature, or his avoidance of the limelight. Perhaps it was his satisfactorily fame-less demeanour. Or perhaps it was his eyes.

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His unmistakeable portrait: Golden coat, broad skull, 2:2 spot pattern and most notably the deep orange eyes.

Once I did start working at Londolozi there were a million places and individual animals I wished to see. Coupled with training, working and exploring there were seemingly a million more things to do and experience and I took each sighting as it came. But in the back of the mind I always remembered this Gowrie male who I had connected with, just from a few photographs and several rangers’ descriptive words.

Of course, I learnt all about this male, as well as most other leopards around the property, in order to do my job… But I had still never seen him. He remained just that; knowledge. I knew his origin, his history, memorable milestones during his upbringing and great stories from his journey to dominance in the north of Londolozi. But I couldn’t say I really knew him. This was the case for ages. I began questioning his existence and thought maybe he was just a myth all along… Somehow, the Camp Pan and Marthly males were the only dominant males around and a false rival was fabricated to keep the readers’ attention; a foil figure thought up to have different behaviours and ridiculously large, round orange eyes. Every so often I would hear on the radio that he had been spotted in the north, and every time I seemed to be deep in the south of the property with no chance of getting there. On three separate occasions when I happened to be nearer, he vanished between the time he was found by another ranger and when I excitedly arrived on the scene. I couldn’t believe my bad luck! This continued for a little over a year.

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Pushing south and extending his massive territory, the Gowrie male would venture into the Sand River system and patrol over grand granite slabs.

But then, one cool morning in late summer, as the leaves were turning to warm hues, we were graced with his powerful presence standing tall in the road soon after crossing the Sand River. From what I remember, and this was probably not the case, he was actually emitting golden rays which lit the surrounding crest… Pity I never got that photograph. I knew straight away, this was him, this was the Gowrie male. His aura superceded my happiness as he marched across the clearing, scent marking as he went, before rasping off a territorial call and disappearing down into the river system. After a year’s wait I was not disappointed.

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Even under a monochrome perception, those eyes pierced the normal. He was truly a unique sight.

What followed seemed to be an unintentional love affair with this individual as we happened to find him countless more times in the subsequent weeks, which included mating behaviour, feeding activity on the ground and up in trees, dominance displays and incredible views of him atop granite boulders, often too high up or far away for a photograph! These incredible sightings we shared with him and moments of inspiration from observing him control his territory was soon ended with his sudden disappearance and eventual presumption of death; unfortunately a common occurrence in the predator kingdom.

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One of many observed mating bouts followed, this time with the Tutlwa female in the Manyalethi riverbed, with a very nicely positioned pool of standing water offering a rare reflection; a scene I have never witnessed since!

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The dull, the dark, the hidden character.

That short period in my world, revealed so much for me and helped me to better understand a male leopard’s reign amongst other powerful figures. His presence became deeply felt for me, particularly as on the surface his existence was dull and insignificant, but by seeing him once, a hidden world of success and confidence flooded my vision. It was only then did I realise the power of that initial connection to this nearly mystical figure.

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Early June 2015, the last time I saw the Gowrie male. He characteristically emerged onto this large boulder and a few minutes later meandered across it and into a rocky area and out of my sight forever.

The Gowrie male’s stubborn persistence and ruthless achievements in the leopard world were always known, but needed to be witnessed for someone like me to fully understand them. And all it took was a desire to know more and the initial, lucky glimpse to set that wheel in motion. An unforgettable and forever cherished journey to really knowing.

Filed under Leopards

Involved Leopards

Gowrie 2:2 Male

Gowrie 2:2 Male

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About the Author

Sean Cresswell

Safari Guide

Sean is one of the humblest rangers you are likely to meet. Quietly going about his day, enriching the lives of the many guests he takes out into the bush, it is only when he posts a Week in Pictures or writes an ...

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15 Comments

on The Late Gowrie Male: A Piece of My Past

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Kumar Silva
Guest

It is good to know to know about this leopard. But write about Matimba Males who are more acclaimed and love. People are crying for an update on them.

Alex
Guest

Beautiful blog of a powerful male.Unfortunately for the Gowrie male,he always had bigger,stronger neighbours to his north so he always shifted his territory southwards.What male dominates Marthly these days?

Ed Hubbard
Guest

Sean. What an absolutely brilliant article. We have been to Londo three times and I am quite confident I have photos of the Gowrie male. In June 2016 we were on safari with Mike Karantonis when we discovered a leopard who been injured overnight by two lions, who would die that day. I felt as though I had lost one of my best friends. I understand your emotional attachment. Thank you putting it into terms so clearly. I hope don’t mind if I share your item on Facebook.

Sean Cresswell

Thank you, Ed, and of course I don’t mind you sharing the links. Thank you for always supporting the page and commenting on our content! See you next time!

Oh, and yes I remember that morning with Mike, that sadly was the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male and I remember that very clearly – what an awful discovery… Keep well

Alice Ross
Guest

Wow Sean what an excellent blog – whilst reading it I actually felt I was right there with you – Oh how I wish it were so. I never had the privilege of seeing this magnificent animal – always relied on the blogs like yours and stories via Trevor. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

Callum Evans
Guest

Inspiring

Jessica Celine
Guest

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Seeing leopards in the bush is one of the most treasured memories I have. I’ve been lucky to see a few in the country of my birth where I no longer live, but where I am always drawn back to, always in the hope of seeing the magnificent animals of the African bush, a place without equal.

Arda
Guest

What a great description of your ‘relation’ with this leopard. Thank you for sharing. Each of these stories gives me more insight in the lives of these magnificent cats

GM Majingilane
Guest

so well written !RIP Gowrie male does he leave behind any offsprings

Una Holdsworth
Guest

Lovely commentary

Lea
Guest

Nice read Sean. Amazing how one animal can attract when so many beautiful animals abound. He was a magnificent looking animal and I am so glad you got to see him before he disappeared. A sad end to him, but I guess, such is the circle of life in the wild. May he rest in peace.

Jill Larone
Guest

Beautifully written Sean, and stunning pictures of this incredible Leopard — the image of the Gowrie male in the light made me cry…stunning, powerful and beautiful. These beautiful animals allow us the privilege of watching them go about their lives and they capture our hearts…and then one day they are gone and leave an indelible mark forever. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your stunning images.

Pierre Malherbe
Guest

The Gowrie male first appeared in the Sabi Sands around 2001. Judging by his size, he is estimated to have been born around 2005/6.
Appeared before he was born?

James Tyrrell

Hi Pierre,
Apologies, a typo. It’s meant to read 2011. Changed accordingly.

Tim Musumba
Guest

Wonderful excerpt of the Gowrie Male Leopard aka 2:2.The reason he may have appeared camera shy and less seen could be with the fact that the opposing males next to his territory in this case the Camp van and Marthly males could have been more experienced and larger in size for a combat than he was to them!That could be the reason why he was less sighted i guess!

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